For Entertainment, Vision 2030 aspires to grow household spending on entertainment from 2.9% to 6.0%, which in turn is expected to develop a SAR 30 B market. Realizing this aspiration requires developing cutting-edge entertainment experiences, launching new entertainment attractions and hosting world-class events and festivals.
For Tourism, Vision 2030 aims to create attractions that are of the highest international standards, improve visa issuance procedures for visitors, and develop Saudi historical and heritage sites. Saudi Arabia aims to more than double the number of Saudi heritage sites registered with UNESCO.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program breaks new ground by encouraging the development of a vibrant society. Regulatory authorities have been established to organize, develop and lead the entertainment sector to provide exciting entertainment options and tailored experiences to the needs of people in Saudi Arabia. This market is in its early stages of growth yet has the potential to make great strides towards satisfying the artistic drive of the Kingdom’s youthful population.
Financial opportunities await evolving businesses to capitalize on this sector through production and ancillary services, generating income whilst satisfying the needs of the young Saudis. 2017 saw some interesting achievements in this sector and set the stage for more than doubling the activity scheduled for 2018. Immense anticipation is being held for this sector due to its liberating nature and morale-boosting potential for KSA residents.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country with one of the largest populations in the Middle East. Its citizens and expats currently exceed 32 million and demographics are growing at a steady rate of 2.5%. Around half of inhabitants are under the age of 30 with a considerable appetite for entertainment, culture and sports.
Saudis make approximately 9.6 million leisure trips abroad each year, spending around 80% of their entertainment budget whist they’re away. This amounts to around SAR 21 billion (US$5.6 billion) per year, a sizeable sum reflecting the recreational needs of the modern society. Saudi Arabia envisages a future where its inhabitants seek entertainment from domestically based cultural and sporting events.
KSA is committed to entertainment, culture and sports development through clear rules and regulations. Ambitions are aimed towards delivering a comprehensive offering that is in line with global standards by 2030. Private sector participation in the industry is key within the areas of infrastructure development, event operations, content building and capabilities building. The expansion of this sector will also open up opportunities for the private sector through ancillary services such as food and beverages, retail, logistics, tourism and accommodation.
Vision 2030 sets goals to increase a targeted variety of cultural and entertainment activities. The KSA Government remains strongly committed to unlocking this sector and has accordingly introduced the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), General Authority for Culture, General Sports Authority (GSA), Entertainment Company and Qiddiya with clear mandates. Furthermore, companies have been established to invest in the entertainment infrastructure and there are plans to introduce and review the use of regulations and incentives to promote growth in this sector.
The introduction of entertainment, culture and sport to Saudi society has been a great success, generating an appetite in the Saudi population for recreational enjoyment. Over 2,200 event titles were held by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) in 2017, attracting 7 million attendees in over 50 towns and cities. In fact, the first all-female performer concert took place in Riyadh in 2017, selling out immediately due to large demand. Furthermore, the scheduling of top tier international events in 2017 attracted the interest of millions of visitors to the Kingdom, bringing considerable revenue into KSA.
The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has set even higher targets for 2018, as it plans to organize around 5,500 events during that year. Also, 2018 will bring the long awaited re-opening of cinemas in Saudi towns and cities, sparking enthusiasm in citizens not seen for generations. The inaugural participation of Saudi Arabia in the Venice based Biennale also signified a shift in cultural diversity reflecting the needs of modern Saudi society.
Imagine a country with the financial muscle to turn its pristine landscapes into smartly designed, state-of-the-art tourist destinations. That country is Saudi Arabia, a Kingdom with a high and growing demand for domestic and international tourism that is undergoing one of the biggest transformations that the world has ever seen. The relaxation of immigration rules and development of tourism infrastructure are just some of the multiple initiatives being promoted by KSA to enable tourism growth. Saudi Arabia is also promoting private investments in the country, significantly developing its existing and forthcoming attractions and introducing massive extensions to it’s transportation infrastructure. With capital investment for tourism set to rise to more than SAR 200 billion (USD $ 54 billion) over the next 10 years, Saudis expects to become a key touristic destination by 2030.
Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector has witnessed massive growth marked by a boom in inbound international visitors and a significant increase in domestic tourism. In 2016, Saudi Arabia received more than 19 million inbound visitors from around the world, a number that has been growing at a CAGR of 10% since 2010, with religious tourism constituting around 45% of the total number of inbound trips. Domestic tourism has also been registering significant growth in KSA, growing at a CAGR of 14% since 2010 and swelling the number of domestic trips to 50 million in 2016.
In addition to the increase in the number of inbound and domestic tourists, KSA has witnessed a remarkable increase in tourism spend. Inbound passengers spent SAR 94 billion (USD $ 25 billion) in 2016, growing at CAGR at 24% since 2010. Total spend from domestic tourism grew by 9% CAGR since 2010, reaching SAR 53.6 billion (US $14.3 billion) in 2016 and marking an 11% increase from domestic spend in 2015.
As a result, Saudi Arabia currently ranks among the top 20 countries in the world in terms of total GDP contribution, with tourism contributing SAR 224 billion (USD 59.7 billion) to the economy. This is expected to further rise by 4.7% per annum, to SAR 412 billion (USD $ 110 billion) constituting 11.1% of GDP by 2027.
In line with its vision to diversify it’s economy away from oil and gas, Saudi Arabia is striving towards unlocking the sector’s potential by implementing several key changes that will enhance its tourism ecosystem. For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia will start issuing tourist visas in the second quarter of 2018. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is investing in developing the Saudi tourism infrastructure, starting with the opening a new international airport in Jeddah that will be able to handle 100 million passengers.
Saudi Arabia is also promoting private investments in the country through the Kafalah program and land lease extensions. The Kafalah program will guarantee tourism projects receive loans of up to SAR 1.5 billion (US $400 million), whilst the land lease extension initiative will grant ventures with expected investment of more than SAR 20 million (US $ 5.33 million) an extension of the land lease period to 50 years, instead of the original 15 or 20.
In 2016, the Saudi Arabian tourism sector attracted investment of SAR 107.2 billion (USD $28.6 billion), which was six times the world average in tourism capital investments. Investments are expected to rise by 9.8% in 2017 and by 5.5% pa over the next ten years to SAR200 billion (USD $ 54 billion). These investments target the preparation and development of attractions and historical/heritage sights to the highest of international standards.
Rich cultural heritage and iconic sights
Saudi Arabia’s diverse terrain offers a wide variety of scenery, while its captivating history, rich culture and significance for Islam make it one of the most visited countries in the world. There are more than 4,000 registered archaeological sites across the Kingdom, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Addiriyah, Madain Saleh, Jabal Umm Sinman and Jeddah (Al-Balad).
The historic site of Addiriyah is an oasis located on the banks of Wadi Hanifa in Riyadh. It is the original home of the Saudi Royal family and was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2010. Madain Saleh is an archaeological site located in the Sector of Al-`Ula within Al Madinah Region and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The majority of the remains in this site date from the Nabatean kingdom (1st century AD). The rock art sites at Jabal Umm Sinman near the Hail region were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. This site has traces dating back 10,000 years and showcases art left by the ancient Arab population. Historic Jeddah (Al-Balad) also known as ‘the Gate to Makkah’ is a 7th century AD major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channeling goods to Makkah. This site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. KSA’s UNESCO sites are to undergo significant development for the purpose of raising infrastructure levels to the highest of international standards.
In addition to the key changes outlined above, the government has identified several projects aimed at expanding and establishing the tourism sector.
Neom is a SAR 1.9 trillion (US $500 billion) mega city planned for Tabuk province that is set to be world’s first private zone spanning 26,500sq/km over three countries. Tourists are set to enjoy the experience of visiting a truly state-of-the-art city positioned at the crosshairs of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Al Ula located in Madinah province is to undergo transformative development, as are the 50 untouched islands of The Red Sea in Tabuk province that are subject to a luxurious coastal project. This development is set to transform a location that’s considered by many to be one of the world’s last natural hidden treasures.
Also identified as an ideal location to grow the tourism sector, Okaz City, an oasis of culture and heritage provides a remarkable experience featuring high quality, integrated facilities for leisure, entertainment, meetings, business and accommodation. For tourists seeking entertainment, cultural and sporting activities, The Qiddiya, will be located over 334 square km outside Riyadh, to cater to this newly founded segment.
White Cape, Located in Madinah province, is being developed into a year round coastal resort offering upscale leisure, wellness and entertainment attractions.
The Farasan Islands in Jazan province, an archipelago of 84 coral islands in the Red Sea, are being developed into a marina sanctuary eco-tourism destination.
Jabal Sawda near Abha in the Asir Region, situated on a high plateau that receives more rainfall than the rest of the country and contains the country's highest peaks (which rise to almost 3,000m) is also being geared to receive tourists.
Finally Al Uqair, on the Saudi eastern coast, is being developed to offer waterfront activities that target domestic tourists.
These projects will no doubt be the first of many unprecedented initiatives that are to transform Saudi Arabia into a global touristic hub of the highest caliber.
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